Gaizka Garitano “We Always Look Forward To Playing At Home”
It’s been over a month since Athletic last took the field at San Mamés but the Lions will finally return on Sunday when they host Celta Vigo. Athletic enter the weekend just two points off of sixth place and eager to keep pace in the race for Europe. On the other hand, Celta are in the midst of a relegation battle and Gaizka Garitano expects a tight contest at the Cathedral.
“We always look forward to playing at home,” the Mister told reporters during Saturday’s press conference. “We haven’t played here for a long time and we want to be here where we are very comfortable. We will try to play a good game which is what Celta will demand from us. We will try to return to the path of victory.”
Despite Celta’s place in the table, Garitano recognizes that the Galicians are a strong team. Celta are desperate for points which will give them added motivation against Athletic.
“Celta are a team made for other purposes. They made important signings at the beginning of the season and now they are down in the table. That makes them more dangerous. They are very technical and try to associate play around the area. They also have fast players like Aspas and Mina.”
Garitano went on to explain that Sunday’s match is an important game for Athletic. The Basques will seek to take control from the opening whistle with the expectation that Celta will be a fearsome opponent.
“We all think that we deserve more points than we have, but it’s not the reality. We have what we deserve to have. If we don’t have more it’s because we have done something wrong. They expected to have more because they have players of a high level so we must be attentive. We know this is an important match and we want to impose ourselves. When we play at home we want to win and we will try to take the initiative to take the three points.”
In the last two league games Athletic fielded a lineup with three center-backs and could do so again this weekend. “We have both systems available and feel comfortable with both,” Garitano answered when asked if he will revert back to the tradition 4-2-3-1 against Celta. “We prepare well for each game and make the decision based on the opponent and other situations.”
The recent formation changes have seen Iñigo Córdoba regularly left out of the squad. Garitano shared that Córdoba hasn’t done anything to lose his place, but highlighted that many players are fighting for minutes in the team.
“It’s the competition. I’m happy with everyone and sometimes you start one or trust another based one the game. We make every decision depending on the game plan. I’m especially happy with those who aren’t playing every day. Someone who is playing may disappear and vice versa.”
Garitano also took a moment to address the future of Ibai Gómez. The Mister recent said that no one would be leaving Athletic this month though Espanyol have been determined to sign Gómez. “I haven’t changed my mind, I’m counting on everyone,” he said firmly. “All of the teams are strengthening and we have to continue as we have been. We never part with players that would weaken the team.”
Similarly, Garitano was asked about his own future with his contract set to expire at the end of the season. “I’m not worried about it,” he answered. “I’m focused on the games and we play tomorrow then again on Wednesday. We are preparing for the matches to the tulles and that’s my focus. The contracts that end in June are far away and right now we are worried about trying to win.”
A win at San Mamés could lift Athletic as high as 6th in the standings while anything less would see the Zurigorri remain around the middle of the table. The Basques will be favored against a struggling Celta side but, after losing 1-0 at Balaídos back in October, anything is possible. Athletic have been confident in the buildup to Sunday’s match but aren’t taking Celta lightly.